One doesn’t necessarily associate Missouri with gambling – particularly since two golden eras of riverboat gaming have now elapsed – but in reality, this state is one of the nation’s biggest in terms of casinothe 7th- and 12th-largest gambling industries in the U.S. (St. Louis and Kansas City, respectively)
Since the early 1990s, the state of Missouri has proudly hosted riverboat and traditional gambling in over one dozen casinos. The state’s economy today benefits on a massive scale from these gaming outlets and about 24 million visitors per year try their luck at Missouri casinos. On top of this, Missouri is also known as a “pioneer” in daily fantasy sport gambling legalization and seems primed to try out now forms of regulated intrastate gambling. All in all, it’s a gambler’s paradise right in the heartland!
Population: 6.064 million (off. 2014 est.)
Area: 69,704 sq. mi.
Gambling Age (Casinos): 21
Gambling Age (Lottery): 18
Number of Casinos: 15
• Kansas City boasts more public fountains than any city in the world except Rome.
• In 1865, Missouri became the first state to free its slaves.
• Missouri borders eight states – the most of any state in the U.S.
• What is still considered the most destructive tornado ever touched down in Missouri in 1925. When the storm, centered in Annapols, was over, some 823 people were dead and over 2,900 injured.
Of course, gambling in Missouri started on the riverboats sailing on those great waterways of the Mississippi and the Missouri. Once the Civil War ended, however, Missouri legislators got to work illegalized gambling in the state while preventing shady games of chance from being played on the boats. Par-mutuel racing at horse tracks was formally legalized in 1890, but this law meant little with no actual race tracks established in the state at that time.
So skittish were the state’s politicos about re-introducing gambling in Missouri that bingo and charitable raffles were only formally decriminalized in 1980 and, in 1986, the state lottery was introduced. Two years later came the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) and, while Native American tribes pretty much instantly began offering bingo games, a few more years would pass before casinos opened on reservation land.
In November 1992, voters in Missouri approved a state-wide referendum to allow riverboat gambling back into the state and there’s been no looking back since. By 2007, Missouri riverboat casinos were hosting nearly 24 million visitors for just under $1.7 billion in revenue per year – numbers only recently re-achieved in the state.
In the 2000s,, though, the writing was already on the wall for riverboat casinos in Missouri. Environmental pressures combined with waning profit margins to shift Missouri back to a more traditional model of casino gaming. Several locales were opened in the Kansas City and St. Louis areas in that decade, and today the number of casinos stands at around 15 again.
For the biggest outlets and gambling most reminiscent of Las Vegas-style games, you’ll want to head to the big cities first. In St. Louis, there’s a nice combination of well-known chains and independently-run gambling houses including the Lumière Place Casino & Hotel, River City Casino, Hollywood Casino, Ameristar Casino Resort Spa St. Charles.
In Kansas City, meanwhile, are the Ameristar, Argosy and Harrah's casino hotels. Sports fans and serious gambling types will definitely want to check out the Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway for auto racing and casino games aplenty.
Missouri adheres to the basic national standards, i.e. 21 years as the minimum age for gambling at casinos. It’s 18 for basically all other types of gambling, but the law also makes special note of charity bingo, which may be played if 16 years or older.
Mark Twain, perhaps America’s most important fiction writer of all-time! While Twain wasn’t obsessive about gambling, it’s clear in his writings that he was fond of gaming in general. (In fact, what ultimately did Twain in financially was another sort of gambling: investment and speculation.)
Naturally, Twain’s works include dozens of great quotes and sentiments about gambling; we’ll run just one here in our limited space. Here’s Mr. Clemens on the awesomeness of poker: “There are few things that are so unpardonably neglected in our country as poker. … Why, I have known clergymen, good men, kind-hearted, liberal, sincere, and all that, who did not know the meaning of a ‘flush.’ It is enough to make one ashamed of one’s species.”
Since the 1980s, things have loosened up in Missouri gambling law. Today, most forms of gambling that you’d expect have been legalized in Missouri, including casino gambling, par-mutuel betting, poker, daily fantasy sports online and bingo.
Missouri law does include some rather harsh stipulations under the code of law earmarked for “social gambling”, but one can hardly imagine sting operations busting home poker nights…
Also of note: Professional gambling is disallowed. Should one claim more than 20% of one’s earnings as deriving from gambling, it is considered a criminal offense. So, maybe, just … lie on your tax returns? Or stash that money offshore somewhere…?
As of 2017, the St. Louis market is looking to expand its casino gaming offerings with legislation that’s been undergoing the process for a couple of years. At the beginning of ’17, however, a delay of one to three months on any major infrastructure deals in the state thanks to an executive order signed by then-incoming governor Eric Greitens which places a freeze on such moves.
Industry experts figure that such an order well not imped the growth of the casino industry in Missouri, though, so we should expect another new outlet or two in the St. Louis area to open by 2020.
Missouri will seemingly also be getting in on an intrastate poker and/or sports betting network, as internet betting has always been seen as a revenue generator in the state.